Training Reinvented

A radically different approach to training mental health professionals.

Posted Jul 06, 2015

Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain
Source: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

A large percentage of university-based training time for most professions, including psychotherapist and counselor, is spent on theoretical and other academic learning that I believe is far less valuable to a practitioner than what I propose here.

That has always been ill-advised but is especially so in an era when so much information is available that has been curated not just by that student’s instructor but by the world and available instantly on a just-in-time basis thanks to Google, the American Psychological Association website, yes,, etc. 

My proposals:

  • Replace nearly all academic classes with a few hundred video-based case studies, available online. Each would be punctuated by decision points. At each, students would be asked a multiple-choice question: “Which of these would you do?” Optionally, they could state why. Fellow students and master practitioners would, online,comment and ask students about their answers. The case studies, of course, would start easy and get more difficult. They would be divided into 10 levels.
  • After a student demonstrated sufficient competence at a level, s/he would then start receiving email invitations to--under a master practitioner's supervision-- conduct a session with a client or patient with a problem of that difficulty level.
  • Students, in groups of six, led by a master practitioner, would meet in-person, daily, to discuss the day’s case study(ies.)
  • In those groups, they would also discuss one of the top 50 or 100 ethical issues. The focus would be on behaviors counselors know are wrong yet too often do--for example, the counselor trying to keep the client/patient coming even when that may not be a wise use of the client's time and money..
  • All students would meet weekly, one-on-one, with a designated mentor that the student would choose by reviewing an introductory video and bio that each mentor would create and post on the training program’s website. Mentorship could focus on schoolwork, career issues, and/or personal matters, referring the student to other support services as appropriate.

I welcome your reactions to this proposal. If you are a mental health practitioner, do you think you’d be a more or less effective practitioner if you were trained this way? Any suggestions for improving the proposed model?

Marty Nemko’s bio is in Wikipedia.